Billy Zane (actor, Titanic): The big night for me was the premiere at the Chinese [Theater]. The song just delivered. People were reduced to jelly. The most stoic and stalwart pillars of the industry... they were beside themselves. When she hits the high note in “Near, far, wherever you are” — bam! The floodgates open.
The Road to the Grammy Awards
There were two versions of “My Heart Will Go On”: one that appears at the end of the film and a more produced pop single for radio that won the Grammy for record of the year in 1999.
Billie Woodruff (director of the music video): Céline’s marketing person reached out to me because Céline, I think, loved the stuff I’d done with Toni Braxton. So I went out to Paramount. James was still finishing the film. And the people at the studio were like, “It’s going to be a disaster.” I remember sitting there thinking, “I can’t believe they’re saying this to me.” I watched the movie, and I’m crying at the end!
I hopped on a plane to Las Vegas to meet Céline. I was nervous. She opened the door, and I’m like, “Hey, I’m Bille.” And she started singing “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. She made me comfortable immediately.
Walter Afanasieff (co-producer, “My Heart Will Go On”): I’ve never said this before, but I never met James Horner until we stood onstage together at the Grammys. I came into the process from the first point that they decided to make a big radio single. There was no version existing except for a tiny little piano vocal demo that Céline had done with Horner. To be very honest, I didn’t really get it. I thought it was a very simple song that just meandered. It was a little dreary. Epic Records called me and said, “Well, do what you can.”
I arranged and produced it. Céline did her vocals with me. She did one take on the demo that you hear in the movie. But whenever you’re talking about the big single — which is what’s on her album, the song that won the Grammy Award for record of the year — that’s what we’re talking about. I can’t agree to all of these other cockamamie, one-take stories.